Nervous about flying? Bored of flying? Can’t be bothered to drive? Haven’t got anyone to drive with or for you? There is another option! And it’s not one that always springs to mind when you’re thinking about vacations. So you’re in the right place to learn more about doing train trips USA style!
Train trips usa
There are a number of private train operators in the US. You’ll also find a number of tour operators who will put train vacation packages together for you. But if you want to keep costs lower, you’re probably better off organising it yourself. This is my preferred choice too – partly for cost and partly because I’m quite particular about what I do when. I don’t like someone else organising my fun for me. So for the purposes of the information provided in this section, I will focus on the state-owned Amtrak services.
Amtrak offers services to many major cities and lots of places in between, across the USA. From New York to LA and Chicago to New Orleans. The train can be a surprisingly affordable and convenient way to get around. And If you’re travelling by yourself, it’s the perfect place to meet totally random people!
The beginning of the journey
While it’s not a surprise that flying often ends up being the most used vacation transport method, it does have its drawbacks. Hanging around the airport. Dry air. Bad food. Price. But if you live on an island as I do and you want to go further away, well of course flying is crucial.
But what about when you’re actually in country? A few years ago, I ended up on a train from Northern Italy into Switzerland. It was a horrible day. Miserable and raining. We got delayed for a couple of hours about half way there at this tiny station in the middle of nowhere. And there was one tiny cafe at that tiny station that everyone squeezed into to grab a coffee and moan about the delay. And the fact that it was such a tiny station.
But I still remember it so positively. I remember it positively because I remember being utterly transfixed by the countryside, the buildings, the people as they passed me by. I’ve travelled Europe a lot. But it doesn’t matter. Each new experience brings fresh perspective and fresh joy!
See more of the usa!
And so it was this principle I started to apply to my travels in the US. Flying across the Atlantic takes me a minimum of 6 1/2 to 7 hours. Longer if I’m heading any further west. I like to see at least 3 cities per trip to make the most of it. That can be at least 5 or 6 flights in a couple of weeks. I love airports and I actually enjoy flying. But it can still be super tiring even when your flight time is only an hour.
But most importantly, I just don’t see anything from 30,000 ft. I don’t care if it’s empty desert or a bunch of houses. To really travel a country, you need to actually see as much as possible. Not just head towards the lights of the big cities.
Just a 19 hour train trip to start…
I don’t like to do things by halves. When I get an idea, I tend to be quite impulsive and jump straight in. Sometimes that works out, sometimes not so much. So when it came to evaluating options for attacking train trips USA bound, I didn’t hold back.
Having planned to fly into Chicago, i was set on heading down to Louisiana and New Orleans. So I was delighted to find out that Amtrak have the City of New Orleans service running out of Union Station in Chicago. And then I realised it was 19 hours long…
UpgrAde if you can
Undeterred, I investigated the options offered by Amtrak in terms of seating. Though regular seats carry a really cheap price tag, I just could not cope with the idea of 19 hours in a regular seat. Travelling by myself quite regularly, I choose to spend a little more on certain things to treat myself. As a little reward for going away alone! Well done me. Big pat on back.
But actually when I started to look into prices, I was surprised to find that upgrading to more space on the train was little more if not on par with the cost of an economy plane ticket. Of course it depends on the route, how early you book, the day of week. But you can find good deals when it comes to train trips USA v.s flights USA.
A unique experience
Whether you’re local or not, riding Amtrak can be a thoroughly unique experience. From the actual practice of sleeping overnight on a train, to the random small towns you’ll stop at along the way. If you’ve been thinking about using the trains as a full or part of a vacation, learn more about my trips and tricks in this section.
Just follow the links in the menu above or below and get ready to be Amtrakked!
Union Station in Chicago is one of the most impressive train stations in the US. Learn more about the station and Amtrak services running from it
Pictures from travelling by train in the USA. Find your vacation ideas here
If you currently do or have ever used a train to commute for work, a 19 hour train ride might sound like the worst idea you could ever have. 19 hours squashed up in a seat. Sure you can walk around. Sure there’ll be a few stops. But seriously, 19 hours? And yet that’s exactly what … Continue reading Train from Chicago to New Orleans
The very first US train journey i took was cross country from Chicago to New Orleans. 19 hours. I did consider just buying a regular ticket when i first started looking into the trip. But after checking the various seat options and prices, i decided i just had to book myself an Amtrak bedroom. Keep … Continue reading Amtrak bedroom